The death of the mixer and the multicore…

Last week I took ownership of Behringer’s X-Air XR18 digital mixer. It’s not a desk, it’s a rack format digital mixing console that’s operated remotely either by a tablet or PC device. It has 16 mono inputs with parametric EQ, gates and compression on every channel. It’s as game changing as you’d come to imagine, especially at the price point of £600.

And that spawns an interesting question for someone like me who provides sound systems to customers for a living and the obvious time savings that come with having less equipment to set up and load out at the end of the night. This thing will literally sit in a flight case full of cables!

A lot of the time I’m asked to liaise with tour managers, other sound engineers and musicians in the weeks prior to an event. More often than not, at some stage e-mails go backwards and forwards until a PDF lands in my inbox with the bands tech spec. If a band has a sound engineer then most of the time they bring a printed tech spec with them to the gig… they wander around the stage and before you know it, mic channels are being scored off the list with a red Sharpie pen as things start to get paired down. A 24 channel list nose dives to under 16.

At the moment the Behringer X-Air probably isn’t eligible to cover the rider requirements I see mostly because of the brand name… but the technology and the impressive price point they’ve introduced sets the bar very high for the competition to cross. Undoubtedly, I’ll be back to wheeling out heavy Soundcraft analogue desks and Midas digital desks as usual. But I get the feeling where the tech specs are much more straight forward at less demanding gigs, the X-Air will definitely be taking front and centre of almost all my gigs from now on.

There’s a clear divide between someone who buys equipment to use for themselves and someone like me that hires my time and kit to customers. But I hope that sitting with a laptop at the back of a venue, or me sauntering about on stage with the app on my phone making changes it will inspire people to ask questions. I hope it will bring about an expectation from musicians and the public to see more of this kind of thing at gigs. Not least because it’s really cool… but because I hate large heavy multicore cables!